The Left often tries to present itself as optimistic. Maybe once it was. But that was decades ago, in the era of JFK and MLK. When you think about the Left today, you think of college students feeling traumatized at the slightest thing, demanding safe spaces. You think of “environmentalists” who preach inaccurate prophecies of doom at us while trying to strip away our quality of life. You think of people talking about our Western values as though we were the worst people in the history of mankind rather than the best, as though we were the worst human-rights abusers rather than the greatest champions of human rights who ever lived.
There was once a tradition of liberalism in Europe and North America that was fundamentally democratic, optimistic and individualist. It’s what we call classical liberalism. It believed in government as something that could help people to raise themselves up. It imagined people as strong, and that if they had a fair chance (with things like education and civil rights) could raise themselves up and succeed on their own effort. Even if you think that idea is fundamentally flawed you can still admire its motives.
But that type of liberalism hardly exists anymore. The classical liberals mostly died out. You still see a few of them in the very fringes of the Left, ostracized by their own movement. Instead, the liberalism we see today is one that is anti-democratic, pessimistic and collectivist. It was a product of 50-plus years of careful subversion (starting in academia, and moving on to the rest of society) first by Marxists but then by the post-modernists.
The modern Left doesn’t believe anyone can raise themselves up. In fact, it’s based on the idea that everyone is totally helpless to do anything about who they are or what happens to them. This is true in both economics and social liberalism. In both cases, it supposes that everyone is a powerless victim of their circumstances.
Let’s look at the economics first. The important thing to know about the leftist mindset here is that they assume a world where no one is able to generate value for themselves. To dumb that down a bit: they think that whatever you have you don’t deserve, and whatever you lack isn’t your own responsibility. Since there’s no legitimate way of generating value, anything you’ve got must have been gotten by taking something away from someone else.
This is still a relatively recent idea in the U.S. (at least in the mainstream), but it has been around since forever in Latin America. It’s how they blame all their enormous screw-ups on the Americans, on the U.K., on “imperialismo”, on “capitalismo”, on anything but themselves. If you want some reading during your holiday season, let me recommend Mendoza, Montaner and Vargas Llosa’s book The Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot, where they go into detail about this. You’re going to need it because this idiocy is already in your own country now.
The basic idea is that anyone who is wealthy is an “oligarch” who has “stolen” their wealth from poor people, who are in no way responsible for their own poverty. Someone who owns a yacht and a summer home has stolen those things from the 99 percent.
But this means that the middle class people, yacht-less but owning a house and a car, have also stolen what they own from people without any cars! Clearly, the guy who doesn’t own a car but can afford an iPhone has stolen that iPhone from those who have no iPhone; and you can work this ladder of bullcrap all the way down to say that a homeless beggar who has shoes is a vampire that parasitically stole away the shoes from someone who has none. You can apply this to people and to countries (of course, all the United States’ success has nothing to do with a rational constitution and a strong sense of national industriousness, it’s because they “stole” their wealth from the third world).
For this idea to work, the Left NEEDS you to be a victim. The American Dream has to be a lie, and no one can be allowed to make their way up in life by their own efforts. If you study and work hard and save money and avoid debt, and end up better off, it would mean their whole conclusion that only massive government intervention can help you (by redistributing some of that stolen wealth) is nonsense. So people today are not encouraged to work harder, they’re encouraged to whine for more stuff. Hiring quotas are good but merit-based raises are the enemy. In school we want kids to learn that they need to do everything in a group, and give extra attention to the dumb kids and pass all the lazy kids anyways – but we definitely don’t want to let the smart kids get ahead on their own efforts. Competition is unfair because some people will work harder and do better at it than others. We need to take away people’s freedom to be excellent because that’s stealing from people who think they can’t be.
In the arena of society it’s exactly the same. Your “rights” can’t come from your own freedom as an individual. They are something given to you or taken from you by the Collective. You can’t decide what you are: you are either privileged or a victim, and the right people will tell you which one it is.
The Left sees everything as systems of oppression: Patriarchy, Systemic Racism, Rape Culture or just Western Civilization itself. Everything that happens to you is because of your assigned identity on the victimhood hierarchy and we are all trapped in perpetuating it. No matter what you do, you can’t overcome your status.
Someone who believes in personal freedom and responsibility, therefore, is someone who perpetuates the oppression of others by presenting the lie that someone can be responsible for themselves! And worse, in this narcissistic age, they commit the ultimate sin: shaming those people who are convinced they can’t possibly be responsible for anything.
It’s pretty incredible for me, as a rational person, to hear so many people saying “I can’t change my life” and seeing themselves as stuck in the economic situation they’re in. But at least there, it is possible that mitigating factors can make it really hard to change your life. I won’t pretend that it’s just as easy for a single mom in her forties who never finished high school to get out of a cycle of debt as it would be for an unmarried college grad in her twenties with no kids. It’s never impossible, but it is sometimes hard.
But when I hear people say “I can’t help who I am,” that’s where I see just how toxic the influence of the post-modern Left has become on our culture. A whole generation has been taught that nothing is real and that nothing is more important than your feelings. If whatever you feel is all that matters, then its easy to imagine you can’t do anything to change your circumstances. If you have no greater purpose, if nothing matters more than what you are instead of what you do, then something as cheap and small as your superficial identity is all you ever are or could be. And then anyone else who dares to define themselves in life by what they do, anyone who is more than just their category, is a threat to your sorry little self-worth. They are engaging in aggression against you because they’ve freed themselves and you have not. They’ve realized that “who you are” is the one thing you can always help. Your identity as an individual isn’t something a Collective needs to give you, it’s the only thing that depends totally on your personal will.
But that’s no use to the regressive Left. It wants to always see people as victims of personal or global circumstance and incapable of doing anything for themselves. They need a Collective to help them. In that kind of context, freedom is just a dangerous illusion.
Libertarianism is the opposite of this poison. The Regressive Left depends on people being helpless and unfree. Libertarianism depends on people being empowered and free. Not just any one person, though. It’s not enough just for me to be free – because my complete freedom depends on the freedom of others. Unlike the point of view of the Left, I don’t believe other people’s freedom is privilege that steals from my own anymore than I believe other people’s wealth is stolen or stops me from seeking my own wealth.
The more freedom I give everyone around me to fulfill their true will, to be the most they can be, to do what they really want, to work and better themselves, to eat and drink what they want to, to say what they want, to watch what they want, to love who they want, to own their own bodies, to die how they want, and to own their own destiny, the MORE (rather than less) that gives me those same freedoms.
I don’t want a society where everyone is equally helpless. I WANT a meritocracy; even though in many cases there will be people who will beat me and turn out to have more merit at many things, because their ability to triumph will still ultimately aid MY ability to triumph in the long run.
None of us are helpless, unless we let ourselves be convinced we are.
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Kasimir Urbanski doesn’t write on a specific subject; he’s EveryJoe’s resident maniac-at-large. A recovering Humanities academic and world-traveler, he now lives in South America and is a researcher of fringe religion, eastern philosophy, and esoteric consciousness-expansion. In his spare time he writes tabletop RPGs, and blogs about them at therpgpundit.blogspot.com. Follow Kasimir on Twitter @KasimirUrbanski.
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